Brussels dismisses UK plea to stay fully involved in the Galileo satellite network after Brexit
- All 27 EU members have signed up to plans to block Britain from Galileo network
- Galileo is the EU alternative to the US GPS and Russian Glonass satellite systems
- Britain has been a key player in building the £10billion programme since 2006
Brussels has dismissed Britain’s pleas to stay fully involved in the £10billion Galileo satellite network after Brexit.
All 27 EU members have signed off on the block in a move that could escalate a major row in the negotiations.
Britain has been a key player in building the satellite network, which is a rival to the American GPS and Russian Glonass systems.
Brussels has dismissed Britain’s pleas to stay fully involved in the £10billion Galileo satellite network after Brexit (file image)
The UK Government insists Britain should keep its current role because it was a key architect of the network.
But Brussels says allowing a third country unfettered access would be a ‘change of nature’ for the EU scheme, while allowing British companies would ‘amount to a loss of strategic autonomy’.
The firm reject of the British position, revealed today by the Financial Times, could do ‘irreparable’ damage to security relations, London has warned.
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One senior EU diplomat handling Brexit for a member state said: ‘We want the UK to be a partner in the future, but that will be on the basis of a third country regime, which excludes them from the inner core of the system.
‘And why? It looks very unhelpful from the British side, but what choice do we have?
‘It has to be less than the membership regime we have now, since UK would then be able to switch off the system without being part [of the] EU. We can’t have that.’
All 27 EU members have signed off on the block in a move that could escalate a major row in the negotiations being led by Michel Barnier (file image)
To discourage Brussels, the Treasury is considering whether it can change licences held by UK firms to prevent them sending data into the system, the Times revealed last month.
A Whitehall source said: ‘There is concern about what this means for the future of our security partnership.
‘The government said we were not going to make it a bargaining chip but the commission turning round and branding the UK a security threat has left us with concerns about what that means.’
A government spokesman said: ‘It is in our mutual interest to remain in [Galileo] as part of a strong security partnership with Europe.’
It emerged last week Britain could develop its own £5 billion satellite navigation system if the row is now resolved.
Downing Street said Theresa May (pictured today in Downing Street) had ordered officials to begin work on a British alternative to ensure that the UK could not be denied access to vital global positioning services
Downing Street said Theresa May had ordered officials to begin work on a British alternative to ensure that the UK could not be denied access to vital global positioning services.
Officials are also drawing up plans to claw back the £1.2 billion the UK has poured in to the project.
Privately, Whitehall officials blame France for galvanising opposition to Britain’s continued participation in the scheme.
And they warned that the EU’s stance could backfire as the Galileo system relies on ground bases in far flung overseas British territories, which would instead be used to help run a British rival.
UK anger has been fuelled by the EU’s decision to freeze British companies out of tenders worth hundreds of millions earlier this year as part of the programme’s ongoing development.
Britain has already threatened to block key decisions on Galileo unless the European Commission issues a ‘clear commitment’ that British businesses can fight for contracts.
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